Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s become a media darling, and earned the title “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” Everyone’s in love with the city’s newest It Girl…everyone except the other Diviners.

Piano-playing Henry Dubois and Chinatown resident Ling Chan are two Diviners struggling to keep their powers a secret–for they can walk in dreams. And while Evie is living the high life, victims of a mysterious sleeping sickness are turning up across New York City.

As Henry searches for a lost love and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, a malevolent force infects their dreams. And at the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans that extend farther than anyone can guess….As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

Libba Bray’s follow-up to The Diviners saw many improvements – and one major disappointment. I cracked the spine hoping for more about the other characters in Libba’s ensemble, and I definitely was not disappointed! We learned so much about the backstories for Henry and Sam, which was welcomed… but I missed Theta and Memphis. One of my major complaints about The Diviners was that Evie wasn’t a particularly likable character, and she sunk even further this time around. I found myself hating every moment that Evie was on the page and wondering how much longer it would be until someone else showed up.

The book is long, starts a bit slow, and, dare I say it, a bit too Henry-focused, but it is well worth the ride. Henry really grew on me as the book continued, and I found myself thankful for Libba’s portrayal of such a unique gay character who wasn’t a stereotype or a caricature. As Henry walks in dreams to find his lost love, Louis, we learn so much about his past and the path that has brought him to New York.

The villain of this book didn’t give me the same chills and creeps that Naughty John did in the first book but instead provides more of a psychological horror. I felt leagues of dread for the characters, which kept me hanging on to every word as each piece began to fit together. This puzzle feels a bit disjointed at the beginning, but as we collect more and more information and the picture starts to come together, you realize what you’re seeing is an emotional gut punch. Make sure that you’re prepared.

One of my favorite things about this book was Libba’s attention to realistic diversity. She isn’t afraid to discuss the KKK, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the general hatred faced by interracial relationships. Diversity for Lair of Dreams doesn’t feel tacked on – it is an integral part of the story.

There’s really not much that I can say here without giving the story away – and trust me, you will want to experience this one’s twists and turns for yourself. This one is well worth it!

The third book in the four-part series comes out next week, and I can’t wait! Libba is a master of cliff hangers, and I’m dying to know what happens next.

4/5 Bards

 

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

 

 

Libba Bray’s The Diviners is the first in a four-book series. The third book, Before the Devil Breaks You, has an expected publishing date of October 3, 2017. I read The Diviners back when it first came out in 2012, but grad school and my dissertation got in the way when book two came out and I never got around to it. Libba is one of my favorite authors, so in order to prepare for Before the Devil Breaks You, I decided to re-read book one, read book two, and then review them both here before it’s time for book three!

In case you’re wondering, this is a pretty spoiler-free review. I’m confident that nothing I say here will ruin any aspect of the story for you.

The book starts off quickly; a Ouija board, a spirit named Naughty John, and more chills and goose bumps than you can shake a stick at.

… Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on…

… Cuts your throat and takes your bones, sells ‘em off for a coupla stones…

I did mention chills, didn’t I? This book gave me the heebie jeebies. I can quite honestly say that I have never felt this sort of dread from a book before. I enjoy horror, I’ve read far and wide in the horror genre, but for some reason, the creep factor just worked for me here. In fact, embarrassingly enough, I was a bit nervous to step outside of my bedroom and into my house one morning, as it was still dark and I had just finished a particularly harrowing plot point.

There are many moving parts within this book – different characters, each with their own lives, different murder scenes (and their delightfully macabre murder descriptions), and many asides from other characters that we only meet once. It’s honestly a lot to juggle, and the shifting point of view can make you go back to re-read something that you had already gone over once.

This time around, as it was my second time with The Diviners, I listened to the audio book. January LaVoy is an incredible narrator, and she had incredibly distinct voices for each character, which made the point of view switching much easier to take.

Another thing that I loved about the book was the 1920s lingo that Libba generously peppered throughout the prose. It is apparent that she did quite a bit of research in order to make the characters fit the time period. I can’t say enough about this – I’ve been using 1920s slang myself in the past week just because it has been so fun to listen to Evie, Theta, and Mabel.

One thing that felt missing from The Diviners that was present in the Gemma Doyle trilogy was how relatable the characters are. In the Gemma Doyle trilogy, I legitimately felt like Gemma, Anne, Felicity, and Pippa were my friends. I once found myself holding up a dress at Ross and thinking, “Man, Fee would love this,” before realizing just how nerdy I had become to think about her as a real character. The characters in The Diviners aren’t up to that level yet – though there is certainly time for them to grow on me more. Part of this could be because there are simply so many characters in Libba’s world – she spent time developing so many across the book but didn’t quite develop enough depth for my liking.

Moving into Lair of Dreams, which is the second book, I really hope that we get to know these characters more. Specifically, I am itching to learn more about Theta and Memphis. I worry about Evie getting on my nerves, as she was starting to grate on them a bit toward the end of Diviners.

Stay tuned for my review of Lair of Dreams, where I’ll fill you in on where these desires led me.

Rating: 3.5 / 5 Bards

Waiting on Wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: August 15, 2017

All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love. 

But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I can honestly tell you that I’ve not been a fan of Stiefvater’s previous work.  I found the Shiver trilogy unenjoyable and The Scorpio Races a bit boring. Don’t get me wrong, these are just my personal opinions of those novels and it’s very possible they were just not my cup of tea.  I encourage everyone to form their own opinions of them and read those novels.  However, I would rather you skip all of those and go directly to The Raven Boys.

I finally see what magic some readers have been seeing in Stiefvater all this time, because this novel was addicting, astonishing, amazing, and a host of other positive adjectives that don’t start with “a.”

by tumblr user: sturmhond

Not only has Stiefvater created a world that I didn’t want to leave (I immediately read The Dream Thieves and am currently reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue), but she has also given readers a group of characters that are so different but yet still have aspects of someone you know within them.  Blue isn’t necessarily exactly like everyone, but some aspects of her personality or her behaviors are familiar.  Everyone knows someone who seems to have two sides, one that they show to the world and the other they reserve for their friends, just like Gansey.  There’s the person who has to work hard for everything they have, like Adam.  And Ronan, well, he is damaged and aren’t we all a little damaged? I can’t say much for Noah, other than we do all know someone who is dead.  We aren’t necessarily literally haunted by them as Noah has corporeal form, but we are haunted by memories.

The plot is wholly original with the nice Arthurian spin to it, and I just can’t praise it enough.  I loved the use of magical realism, and I adore Blue’s family and all of the secondary characters.  Even just reading this, I’ve learned more information about the tarot than I already knew and hope that the rest of the novels continue to teach me.

I found the POV shifts to be a bit rough toward the beginning of the novel, especially since they were each in third person limited.  However, once the novel established the characters a bit more fully, then the shifts seemed more organic and it became more flowing as if these characters almost share a stream of consciousness, even though they do not.

Overall, I’m giving this first installment 4.5 Bards and keep an eye out for my reviews of The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

I’m seriously kicking myself for waiting to pick these up.

four.fivebards

Blog Tour: Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett

blogtourheaderblood
Welcome to A Midsummer Night’s Read’s stop on the Blood and Salt Blog tour, hosted by Penguin Teen!

Check out the book synopsis below, listen to the book playlist, and enter to win a hardcover copy of the book.  My Review of Blood and Salt will be up tomorrow!

 

bloodandsalt“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

Release Date: September 22, 2015

Blood and Salt is full of creepy goodness, but there’s also a scorching hot romance.

This is the official Ash and Dane playlist directly from the author herself! (Click on the song title to listen!)

1) Neighborhood #1— Arcade Fire

I love this song– I think it captures that all-consuming feeling of first love.

2) I Never— Rilo Kiley

“I’ve got nothing to give, except everything. The good and the bad.” The ache in this song is so real.

3) Flow — Sade

This is a seriously sexy song. I can just imagine this playing during the lake scene.

4) Use Me— Holly Golightly

I think this shows Ash’s attitude to her brother’s warnings.

5) The Crystal Ship— The Hot Rats

Dark, gritty with a slight hallucinogenic quality. I can imagine this playing during that incredibly hot kiss on page 236.

6) I Want It That Way— Backstreet Boys

If this seems like an oddball choice– you’re right. Read the book and you’ll understand everything. ; )

7) Bloodstream— Stateless 

This song feels like a dream– a perfect combination of anguish and bliss.

8) It Won’t Be Long— Jason Collett

“When you close your eyes, kiss my mouth, I know I’m closer now than anyone has ever been.” Nuff said.

9) Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want— Clayhill

I always think of Dane when I hear this. It reminds me of his focus on Ash– he’s trying to do the right thing, but he’s clouded by desire.

10) Closer— Kings of Leon

“She took my heart, I think she took my soul.” This song is dark, dangerous and sexy.

11) I Want You— Elvis Costello

I wrote an incredibly hot scene to this song that didn’t make it into the final book. But this song belongs on this playlist.

12) Night In My Veins— Pretenders

“It feels good, even if it’s just the night in my veins.” I think there’s a part of Ash that knows this is dangerous, but she doesn’t care. It feels too good.

13) Can’t Seem To Make You Mine— The Seeds

This is such a fun song! Very Ash and Dane.

14) Fall At Your Feet— Boy & Bear

This is a beautiful song, but there’s a certain sadness that reminds me of Ash and Dane.

15) Shade And Honey— Sparklehorse

This song is so romantic and dark and strange. Just like Blood and Salt.

GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Be sure to check out some of the other stops on the Blood and Salt tour, and come back tomorrow to see my review!

Good Books & Wine –  9/14
Addicted Readers – 9/15
Jessabella Reads –  9/16
A Midsummer Night’s Read – 9/17
It Starts At Midnight –  9/18

The Book Bratz –  9/21
No BS Book Reviews – 9/22
Once Upon a Twilight – 9/23
Please Feed the Bookworm – 9/24
The Irish Banana –  9/25

Winterhaven Books – 9/28
My Friends are Fiction – 9/29
Fiction Fare –  9/30
A Dream Within a Dream –  10/1
Two Chicks on Books –10/2

Book Review: A Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan Rhodes

spirits and thievesCrystal Hatcher, Modern-day Toronto: It’s a normal afternoon in her mother’s antique bookshop when Crys witnesses the unthinkable: her little sister Becca collapses into a coma after becoming mesmerized by a mysterious book written in an unrecognizable language.

Maddox Corso, Ancient Mytica: Maddox Corso doesn’t think much of it when he spots an unfamiliar girl in his small village. Until, that is, he realizes that she is a spirit, and he is the only one who can see or hear her. Her name is Becca Hatcher, and she needs Maddox to help get her home.

Farrell Grayson, Modern-day Toronto: Rich and aimless Farrell Grayson is thrilled when the mysterious leader of the ultra-secret Hawkspear Society invites him into the fold. But when he learns exactly what he has to do to prove himself, Farrell starts to question everything he thought he knew about family, loyalty, and himself….

Fate has brought these young people together, but ancient magic threatens to rip them apart. 

After finally having caught up on the Falling Kingdoms series, I was able to dive into the the companion series A Book of Spirits and Thieves.  Upon my first reading I can say that the world building in Falling Kingdoms is significantly more advanced than in Spirits and Thieves.  While I can imagine the Mytica made up of Limeros, Auranos, and Paelsia, the only real description we get of Valoria’s kingdom…which is presumably Limeros, is that it is not covered in ice and snow as it is during Falling Kingdoms.  I just think it could have been a great time to show us what the landscape really looked like before winter took over.

The narrative changes in this novel are much more advanced than the first Falling Kingdoms was, and each narrating character, Farrell, Maddox, and Crystal, are already very distinct in their narration style.  I think the only weird thing to me was that there were two narrators from present day and only one from ancient Mytica.  I feel like it may  have been more balanced had we received a second point of view from the past, but I think that the novel is still well narrated regardless.

I felt that the romance between Becca and Maddox was a little forced, and his character development happened very suddenly in the last few chapters, but he was still the most endearing male character in the entire novel.  (Other than Charlie, but he is a kitten)  I really enjoyed the tit for tat relationship between Crys and Farrell, but for the most part he just annoyed me.

As much as I know about the Falling Kingdoms world, I am still confused about what exactly is going on with the Hawkspear Society other than the leader is definitely a time traveler of sorts and has Valoria’s golden blade.  But how he came upon the blade or who he is really is a mystery that I assume we will find out as the series continues.

Overall it was a really great read and for fans of Falling Kingdoms it will provide a little taste of Mytica to hold you over until the release of Frozen Tides in December 2015.

4 Bards

fourbards

Book Review: Zodiac by Romina Russell

Zodiac Book Cover

Book Cover from Goodreads

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Adolescence carries with it a series of life-altering changes and perspectives that childhood only dreams to pursue. One of the reasons why I love young adult literature is the very nature of its willingness to ignite some of those existential questions, even though they may be catastrophic to the world that we knew previously.

For Rho, a child of the House Cancer, her world is literally under attack. Zodiac, by Romina Russell, explores the delicate and frustrating battle of finding one’s identity during a time of chaos. Have you ever had someone thrust expectation upon you, whether you felt ready for the responsibility or not? One day, Rho is a student graduating from her education, and within hours, she is expected to be a diplomat. And the reasoning behind her appointment is based on her natural skills in a study that she has been repeatedly told she was doing incorrectly by her teachers.

The worst part about losing control of her life is that no one seems to believe her when she tries to explain the cause of the traumatic events; even some of her friends are skeptical. Through all of her own self-doubt, she battles that of those she’s supposed to work with. Zodiac captures this mistrust in young adults in an epic metaphor in which our protagonist believes she can only trust her peers and her friends.

Or can she?

There’s no going back to the way that life was before the attacks on her world. All she is left with is the present and her conflicted feelings towards her mother, who begins as a mysterious mentor from her past. Her contempt following abandonment and her mother’s words of advice echoing through every decision, much like that of many (especially female) Zodiac readers.

Believable, yet science-fiction-inspired, technologies and cities provide enough visualization to bring you to the many new worlds she visits. An energy network that reminds me a lot of The Force in Star Wars is an asset to those within the universe, yet Rho quickly learns that it could also be a dangerous and risky connection to those looking to destroy life as they know it. Together with her newly-appointed advisor and a mysterious stranger from Libra, she battles the skepticism of those in power and seeks to save as many people as she can. Speaking of those in her corner, you can look forward to some tense and befuddling attractions that she’s forbidden to explore.

Sounds like high school to me.

With its turbulent journeys, suspenseful character development, and the questions of philosophy meeting reality, this book really captured my attention from the first few pages. I cannot wait to navigate this series further and find out the ultimate fate of the universe.

This book has definitely earned four and a half bards!

four.fivebards

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: September 22, 2015

Odea Donahue has been able to travel through people’s dreams since she was six years old. Her mother taught her the three rules of walking: Never interfere. Never be seen. Never walk the same person’s dream more than once. Dea has never questioned her mother, not about the rules, not about the clocks or the mirrors, not about moving from place to place to be one step ahead of the unseen monsters that Dea’s mother is certain are right behind them.

Then a mysterious new boy, Connor, comes to town and Dea finally starts to feel normal. As Connor breaks down the walls that she’s had up for so long, he gets closer to learning her secret. For the first time she wonders if that’s so bad. But when Dea breaks the rules, the boundary between worlds begins to deteriorate. How can she know what’s real and what’s not?

Review Repost: Possess by Gretchen McNeil

Rule #1: Do not show fear.
Rule #2: Do not show pity.
Rule #3: Do not engage.
Rule #4: Do not let your guard down.
Rule #5: They lie.

Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from.

Terrified to tell people about her new power, Bridget confides in a local priest who enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession. But just as she is starting to come to terms with her new power, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the demons’ plan before someone close to her winds up dead – or worse, the human vessel of a demon king.

I’ve had this novel since it was released in late 2011, but for some reason it kept getting bumped down in my To Be Read pile! Now I really regret not reading this novel sooner, because I really enjoyed it!

As most story workshops go (at least in my creative writing courses), we always discuss the strengths of a narrative first. I’m not even sure where to start, because there are so many strengths in McNeil’s debut novel. So I guess I’ll just list them in the order I have them written down in my notes: Characterization, Subject Matter, Love Story, Plot.

So, Characterization. I have to say that I really respected Bridget as a character for being strong willed and for not readily accepting her abilities. Since religion has a large part in this story, we learn that not only does her ability have to do with the entities within Heaven and Hell, which proves to Bridget that God, in fact, does exist. She had previously renounced God after her father’s murder. So her slow acceptance of her fate coincides with her acceptance of God and religion.

I want a gay best friend like Hector. He was extremely well developed for a secondary character that isn’t privy to Bridget’s secrets. I just really loved his and Bridget’s relationship, even though it was strained through part of the story. Oh, Matt Quinn. He is the resident sexy boy who has the hots for our main character. Matt managed to surprise me throughout the story with his loyalty to Bridget, which I can owe to McNeil for making me dislike him because Bridget did. Their relationship developed organically (more on this later).

Subject Matter: In my opinion, the subject of demonic possession really hasn’t been overused in YA lit, and the use of Catholicism in Possess is extremely realistic and very well done. In a time where the Catholic church is criticized almost constantly for some of its amoral actions with choir boys and acolytes, or even its stance on gay marriage, it is really great to see the Catholic Church, a Catholic heroine, and the Vatican as heroes. I have to say that it really surprised me.

Simple statement: THE LOVE STORY DID NOT OVERPOWER THE PARANORMAL STORY ELEMENTS. Hallelujah. Thank you, McNeil, for not allowing the budding friendship/relationship between Bridget and Matt to come to the forefront when the major dramatic question was about the possessions. THANK YOU.

The final strength I want to mention is the Plot development. The pacing of Possess was great, and there wasn’t a spot where I felt like I could skip some chapters and still be able to finish the story. There were a few places that were somewhat obvious to me (with the plot twists) because I saw it coming, but it still didn’t take away my enjoyment of reading this novel.

Weaknesses: Okay….the only thing that really bothered me was the amount of current pop culture references spread throughout the novel. I just feel that these references (Ke$ha, Jersey Shore, and Mean Girls) can really serve to date the text. This means that some future generations that might want to pick up this book won’t really know what those references are.

I really enjoyed Possess, and cannot wait until the release of McNeil’s second novel, Ten.

4.5 Bards!

four.fivebards

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